Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

Categories: Children | North America

It can't be said that people are rarely stolen in the United States, but 25 children and an adult, and even together with a school bus, is already too much. In June 1976, an entire bus with a driver and children disappeared in California. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending, but salvation did not come from a superhero – the children themselves had to act.

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

One summer day in 1976, the bus driver of the Dairyland school in Chowchilla, California, picked up 25 children from the pool and was going to take them to school. There were 25 schoolchildren aged from 5 to 15 years in the salon, who were chatting and laughing nonchalantly. But as soon as the bus started, two white vans blocked its path.

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

Two men with tights on their heads and guns burst into the bus. Threatening with weapons, they pulled a bag over the driver's head, transferred him to the back of the cabin. After that, one of them got behind the wheel and the school bus took the direction to the nearest forest.

On a remote forest road, the bus stopped and its passengers and driver were transferred to two large vans without windows, which immediately took off. The trip lasted 11 hours and ended in the dead of night on some wasteland. Later, the children recalled that they were shown some kind of hole in the ground and ordered to climb into it one by one, the last bus driver came down and a metal hatch closed behind him. After that, clods of earth could be heard falling on the metal.

The abductees realized that they were buried alive. It was a van buried in the ground, the walls and ceiling of which were reinforced with rebar. Inside were boxes, mattresses, piles of rags and other garbage that the prisoners had adapted to sit and lie down. It is obvious that the improvised underground bunker had ventilation, since the abductees did not feel a lack of air.

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

At this time, the city of Chowchilla, and then the whole of California, were put on their ears. Not since the Indian Wars have so many people disappeared in these parts at once, and even with a school bus. The police, rangers and parents of the children quickly organized search teams and soon found an abandoned bus in the thicket. Here the trail ended and the police just threw up their hands.

Meanwhile, in the underground dungeon, an escape plan was developed. The students and the driver pulled all the mattresses and boxes into a pile and, standing on a pile of junk, were able to move the hatch in the ceiling with a stick. After 28 hours of detention, all the abducted were released. It turned out that they were near some quarry, and soon they managed to find a security booth. The police were called from there and 25 schoolchildren and one adult soon testified to the state police.

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

The attackers were found very quickly. The police immediately realized that only people directly related to it could bury a whole van under the ground near an active quarry without attracting attention. And so it happened – the son of the owner of the mining enterprise, Frederick Woods, turned out to be the leader of the kidnappers, and his friends, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, helped him.

The only thing that was not clear in this whole story was why it was necessary to kidnap children? For a ransom? But the kidnappers did not put forward any conditions. The explanation turned out to be simple – the villains wanted to demand a $ 5 million ransom from the state authorities, but... they could not. They planned to make a phone call to the reception of the governor of the state with ransom demands, but they simply did not get through. All the phone lines were overloaded with the parents of the abducted children, the police and reporters.

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

Having spent several hours dialing different numbers, the kidnappers got tired and went to bed. And in the morning, when we woke up, we saw on TV a report about the happy rescue of children from Chowchilla. And soon the police broke into the door of the Schonfield brothers with an arrest warrant. Woods managed to escape to Canada, but he was also caught there. The brothers received solid prison sentences, and the leader, Frederick Woods – received a life sentence and he is still behind bars.

Interestingly, the kidnappers were young and rich. Frederick Woods is the heir to a multimillion-dollar fortune, he managed to marry and divorce three times while serving his sentence. While in prison, he purchased a luxury mansion on the ocean, in which he plans to live after his release.

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

But so far, the question of changing the life sentence to a more lenient one has not been resolved in any way. Relatives of the 70-year-old Woods have paid large compensation to the victims of the abduction, but they do not want to go to the world. In 2012, the victim Jennifer Brown Hyde gave an interview in which she said that she still feels the consequences of that case:

Buried alive: a gang of kidnappers buried a bus with children for ransom

Bus driver Frank Ray died in 2012. In the same year, the victims filed new lawsuits, demanding money for rehabilitation therapy. To date, all claims are addressed to Frederick Woods, who, sitting behind bars, manages more than 100 million dollars of wealth. We can say that he is the only heir, since his own sister, who suffers from Down syndrome, is incapacitated.

The schoolchildren who were abducted in California were lucky – they stayed in an underground captivity for a little more than a day. But the victims of the maniac John Djamelske lived in a bunker underground for many years.

Keywords: USA | North America | California | Bus | Kidnapping | Prison | Millionaire | Children

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